PRC school board eyes band director, approves contract for alternative school with Poplarville

Published 1:27 pm Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pearl River Co. school Superintendent Dennis E. Penton told the school board on Monday night that he will come up with figures for the next meeting on how much it will cost to hire a full-time head band director.

With recent budget cuts taking effect, the head band director position has been left vacant, but the board said they would look at it again after a band parent, Raegan Penton, appeared before the school board asking them to fill the position.

On another matter, the school board approved a contract with the Poplarville school district that will see about 20 alternative school students from Poplarville merged into Carriere’s fully accredited alternative school on the Burgetown campus.

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Penton told the board that the PRC school has the ability to absorb the students and that it will represent a new revenue stream for the school system. Poplarville opened negotiations with Carriere when it began looking at shifting their alternative school system from nighttime to daytime classes to conform with new state guidelines.

Poplarville school Superintendent Carl Merritt told his board that Carriere has a state-or-the-art program and it would be cheaper to fold the Poplarville program into the Carriere system’s alternative school. The board then gave Merritt authority to enter into negotiations with Penton.

Band parent Penton, who is not related to the superintendent, told the board that he had heard rumors from his daughter, who is in the band, that the school system would not replace the former band director Cornelius Young, that there would be no marching band at Central this year, that the band would only sit in the stands and play and that those students who had invested their time and money in the band so far would be hurt in their attempts to acquire scholarships if that was the case.

“My question to the board is that with Mr. Young leaving, do you all plan to hire another band director to take his place?” asked Penton. “Someone qualified who would be able to teach the band to perform as a marching band so we can continue to have a marching band.”

Board president Twila Crabtree told Penton, “It is my understanding that that recommendation comes from Mr. Penton (the superintendent).”

Replied band parent Penton, “My understanding is that we spent a lot of money for the football coach, what are you going to do for the band?” and about 30 people in the audience broke out into spontaneous applause when Penton asked the question, causing Crabtree to have to gavel the crowd back into order.

“I know the athletic program is important, but so is the band program,” Penton told the board, and added, “I know I was in it here for six years and then two years at PRCC.”

Crabtree asked Superintendent Penton “to elaborate on the status of the band program.”

Said Superintendent Penton, “I know a lot has been said about the cost of the football coach, but the more experience they have the more they cost.”

Crabtree interjected that the reason for the high price of hiring a coach was because of his qualifications.

Replied band parent Penton, “We would like a very experienced band director to replace Mr. Young.” Applause broke out again.

Said Superintendent Penton, “Having been charged by the board to bring a balanced budget, I was forced to make many cuts, some of which I did not particularly like, but I was charged with bringing a balanced budget to the board.

“If the board chooses to add a band director from the fund balance, then I think it would be very appropriate to do so,” added Penton. “So my recommendation is that if the board will allow me to go into the fund balance in the appropriate amount to hire a band director, then we will get a band director hired.”

Although Superintendent Penton said that he knew how much a qualified band director would cost, the board told him to acquire the figures and bring them back to the June 7 meeting for discussion and a decision.

“I can give you the average cost of a band director tonight,” said Penton.

Added Penton, “I brought you (the board) a balanced budget. Several times I asked to be able to go into the fund balance and it was denied to me, that I could not go into the fund balance. That (the band director) is one of the positions that would have been funded if the board had allowed me to go into the fund balance an appropriate amount.

“You (the board) had a list of cuts and I have repeatedly asked the board if I could go into the fund balance to retain some of those personnel on that list,” added Penton.

The motion was for the superintendent to bring the information for hiring a head band director to the next meeting and the motion carried 4 to 1 with board member Sherwin Taylor abstaining.